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New York Knicks forward Precious Achiuwa (5) shoots over Philadelphia 76ers guard Kelly Oubre Jr., rear, in red, during the first half of an NBA basketball game in New York on Sunday, March 10, 2024. (AP Photo/Peter K. Afriyie)
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New York Knicks forward Precious Achiuwa (5) shoots over Philadelphia 76ers guard Kelly Oubre Jr., rear, in red, during the first half of an NBA basketball game in New York on Sunday, March 10, 2024. (AP Photo/Peter K. Afriyie)
Column | Former Villanova fanatic watches “Nova Knicks” take down Sixers in NBA Playoffs
By Aidan Kasner, Sports Editor • May 23, 2024
Opinion | Do not arrest peaceful protesters
By Livia LaMarca, Assistant Opinions Editor • May 23, 2024

Pitt students steer situationships through murky waters

Pitt+students+steer+situationships+through+murky+waters
Izzy Poth | Staff Illustrator

When transfer student Natalee Hails was a first-year at Temple University last year, she saw a guy who took her to concerts, came to visit her at school and even met her family — but ultimately, he did not want to be in a serious relationship with her. Despite feeling like the losing party in a relationship wrought with mixed signals, Hails said going back to this person was like an addiction. A year later, Hails considers the painful experience a “situationship.” 

What does that label mean, exactly? For students who have found themselves in similarly unclear romantic circumstances with another person, Hails said imbalance defines the experience. 

“There’s two sides you can be on — you can be the one who secretly wants the relationship to be more, or you can be the one that is enforcing it to not be more,” Hails, a sophomore communications major, said. “I was on the side of wanting it to be more than he wanted it to be … The difference between casual dating and situationship is that there is that power imbalance.” 

Gabriella Michel, who also went through a situationship last year, said this unevenness put her relationship in an odd spot between casual dating and serious commitment, where a lack of communication made her feel the experience was unhealthy. 

“When I develop a situationship, it’s either over a dating app or it’s a friend turning into something that could be more romantic, so there’s already this established romantic connection that isn’t just hookup-based,” Michel, a junior neuroscience major, said. “It’s more like we could be in a relationship, but we’re not, given time constraints or lack of communication that one or both of us is exhibiting.”

For Caiti Beans, a junior nursing major, being in two situationships almost back-to-back last year taught her that imbalanced relationships can form when one person knows what they want and the other doesn’t. Although Beans admits that self-exploration through relationships is a normal part of growing up, in her experience, being with a person who does not communicate their uncertain status can be devastating.

“It makes me feel gut-wrenched everytime,” Beans said. “It’s frustrating when you know how you feel, but it takes so long for somebody else to realize that.” 

Being uncertain or desiring a different level of commitment doesn’t have to sow the seeds of emotional doom. In Beans’ opinion, if a person discovers that their desires don’t mirror that of the person they are seeing, it’s best to communicate the difference early on — however uncomfortable it might feel. 

“People need to be more upfront with how they feel right when they’re getting into a relationship [or] maybe just talking to somebody,” Beans said. “It can be difficult because you’re dealing with the most terrible thing ever, which is another person’s feelings, but … getting over with it and being upfront with somebody can save you from a lot of hurt later on.” 

Still, like many who have been on the receiving end of someone’s mixed signals, Michel said she found that the other person in a situationship does not always offer much-needed clarity.

“It just depends on the type of person they are — they might realize it and try to back away or have a conversation, but from personal experience, they don’t, and then you have to deal with it on your own,” Michel said. 

Michel added that being the one in a situationship to break the seal on honesty can be difficult, especially if the level of closeness between two people isn’t clear.

“You’re not in a romantic place or emotionally connected place where you can express how intensely you’re feeling because that trust and safety isn’t there,” Michel said. “There’s less stakes if you lose this person because it’s not a real relationship, but also … if you want it to develop into something more, being honest with them is very risky.”

When vulnerability feels daunting, Hails said those on the “wanting more” side of the situationship may often put aside their true feelings to hold out for a happy ending.

“They don’t admit it to the person that they would like to be more — they just continue to settle for whatever affection they can get from the person,” Hails said. “I think people romanticize the idea of getting someone to flip a switch … I would tell people to not think like that — be realistic. If someone tells you that they are never going to want more from you, do not waste your time.”

For Hails, the internet also plays a large role in glorifying the situationship experience. The term populates countless memes, videos and tweets, making the unpleasant dating experience seem like a common, even honorably humorous, form of suffering.

“There’s this attitude of, ‘never admit that you want them,’” Hails said. “I think it’s people trying to portray the idea that ‘it’s cool not to care.’”

While the term “situationship” is a relatively new invention of the internet, some students say the relationship type isn’t. Doyle Keane, a sophomore neuroscience major, said he feels the term “situationship” is simply a more honest way of referring to an age-old kind of relationship. 

“Whatever we consider a situationship now … would have been considered a proper relationship back then because people felt like they had to be in a proper relationship,” Keane said. “It would be scandalous to be hooking up with someone and not call it an official relationship.” 

“The actual relationship definitely existed in the past, but we’re just calling it a different thing,” Keane added.

While many consider a noncommittal attitude towards dating a normal part of one’s early 20s, Michel said she feels students’ easy access to large social networks have made fidelity more frightening and loose attachments easier to form than committed relationships. 

“20 to 30 years ago … the person you would meet was likely the one you were going to marry, but with the access of dating apps and college and meeting all these people all the time, I think it brings more of a want to have situationships that are less stressful,” Michel said. “People can mess around with whatever they want without that emotional burden.” 

In Beans’ opinion, as texting and messaging have become almost inseparable from dating, people miss out more on the deeper understanding body language and face-to-face communication can give. Beans said this can worsen the already murky communication style of situationships, leading to more misconstruals and pain for all involved.

“Whenever I have a problem in a relationship, or in this case, a situationship, it always comes from somebody texting something and the other person didn’t understand what they meant, or maybe you’re looking for a text, and you don’t get it,” Beans said. 

Whether it’s waiting for a text back or waiting for someone to change their mind, a situationship is not a relationship type that people associate with lasting happiness. But having survived one, Michel said as painful as it might have been, it helped her develop a better understanding of what they need from relationships.

“Now that I’m out of the weeds, I look back on it in a very positive way because in the moment, I was head over heels, losing my mind, but now, they have been good experiences to get to know myself and know what it is I want out of relationships,” Michel said.

As casual dating is a big part of many students’ lives, those who have made it to the other side of a situationship advise students to know what they want and stick by it — even when it’s not easy. 

Beans said even if you have been hurt, some level of forgiveness can go a long way.

“We don’t come out of the womb knowing how to speak English, so having the perspective of knowing that this is a person that obviously made a mistake, and they weren’t sure what they wanted, helps to put it into perspective that there are other people and their feelings in play, too.”

About the Contributor
Tanya Babbar, Senior Staff Writer
Tanya Babbar is a junior English nonfiction writing major with a minor in creative writing. In her free time, she likes to roller skate, read on the front porch, talk about her cat Juppi and imagine herself as the Walmart Joan Didion of South Oakland.